James Turner, 1988 Master Plan

The History of Shield Ranch

The Shield/Ayres/Bowen family has served as the steward of Shield Ranch since 1938, when Fred and Vera Shield of San Antonio purchased 5,300 acres on Barton Creek. (Subsequent purchases increased the Ranch to the present 6,400 acres.) Fred W. Shield, a successful wildcatter and distinguished independent oil producer, grew up on a small cotton farm near San Saba. Vera Gentry Shield was a nurse anesthetist and community volunteer who was raised in Abilene. Both were outdoor enthusiasts who loved to hunt and fish and share their Ranch with family and friends.

Today, the Ranch is owned and operated by Patricia Shield Ayres (the only child of Fred and Vera Shield) and her children Robert A. Ayres and Vera Ayres Bowen.

All members of the fourth generation have known and loved the Ranch since they were children. Kathleen Ayres, Elizabeth Ayres Domenech, Marshall Bowen, Gentry Bowen, Sophie Bowen Rupp, and Mallory Bowen, are all actively engaged in planning for the future of the Ranch.

In the early years, Fred and Vera Shield implemented an extensive program to improve rangelands for livestock and wildlife. Fields were cultivated for winter feed. Roads, fences, corrals, barns, and housing were constructed. New water wells and stock tanks ensured an adequate supply of water for livestock and wildlife. The Ranch raised cattle, sheep and goats, and became known throughout Central Texas for its registered Quarter Horses. Brush control, rotational grazing, prescribed burning, and wildlife management have been employed through the intervening years to further enhance the biological diversity and ecological health of the Ranch.

For thirty years, the family has been planning for the future in the face of rapid urbanization of the area around the Ranch. The Shield Ranch 1988 Master Plan, developed by a team led by James Turner of James Turner and Associates, began with a broad regional survey of current and proposed land uses, transportation and utility infrastructure, and regional recreational amenities. The survey of the Ranch included geologic and hydrologic characteristics, vegetation, and wildlife, as well as historic and cultural sites and aesthetic features. This information was evaluated and integrated with family members’ ideas for future land use to create a concept plan.

In the late 1990s, the family placed over ninety percent of the Ranch under conservation easements with the Nature Conservancy and the City of Austin. These legally binding agreements permanently protect water quality in Barton Creek, open space, wildlife habitat, and cultural resources. Shield Ranch is a protected wild land that enhances the scenic beauty and quality of life of our community.

Shield Ranch is also home to El Ranchito, a nature immersion summer camp launched in 2007 to serve young people who might not otherwise be able to go to camp or experience a Hill Country ranch. El Ranchito and other outreach programs are administered by the Shield Ranch Foundation, a private operating foundation. See www.elranchito.org

In recent years the family has come together to reaffirm its vision for the Ranch. Working with Alexis Sanford (Spot Inquiry) and Margaret Vaughn (MVC Consulting), along with several outside vision partners, the family created the “Shield Ranch Vision 2030.” Shield Ranch family and staff then engaged a team of landscape architects and ecologists, led by Andropogon Associates, to create a Master Plan that will guide this work going forward.